Best Book: Most copious black-and-white source of local color
Arcadia Publishing's Regional History Series
It's a gimmick, but it's a cool gimmick. South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing contracts with writers nationwide to create compact little regional-history books, priced at $19.95 each and packed with fascinating vintage photographs. The regions in question are tiny indeed, and that's what makes them such wellsprings of civic pride, each one its own mini-museum between sepia covers. For our area alone in 2005, Arcadia issued volumes about Alameda (aerodrome, Coast Guard base, beachfront theme park); Emeryville (slaughterhouses, racetrack, gambling dens); Vallejo's Filipino community (shipyards, immigration quotas, new businesses); and more. Bay Point got a book all its own (frontier-era ranches, Port Chicago, corporations), as did the San Ramon Valley (electric railway, elegant homes, I-680); Antioch (swamp, lumber, salmon); and the Oakland Fire Department (horse-drawn carts, integration, thermal imaging cameras). Add these to Arcadia's books about Martinez, Concord, El Cerrito, Richmond, Fremont, Oakland Chinatown, and other dots on the map, and you've got the East Bay all wrapped up.